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Volume 12, Issue 33: August 16, 2010

  1. Obamacare and the Constitution
  2. Consumers Would Suffer under the Renewable Electricity Standard
  3. Vargas Llosa on the “Ground Zero Mosque”
  4. What the U.S. Military Can Teach Its Foreign-Policy Leaders
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Obamacare and the Constitution

Some twenty states are mounting a legal challenge to the federal healthcare legislation that President Obama signed into law earlier this year—on the grounds that the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause cannot be stretched to mandate that individuals buy health insurance.

But for that challenge to succeed “would require a radical rethinking of the intent and meaning of the Commerce Clause,” writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Dominick T. Armentano.

Such a rethinking, Armentano argues, could start with the Court noting that the Commerce Clause likely originated to prevent the individual states from imposing taxes and duties on interstate commerce, not to grant Congress power to command and control the economy. In addition, Armentano writes, “the Congress and the courts would have to come to grips with a massive amount of empirical evidence that demonstrates that economic regulation (including healthcare regulation) is costly and counter-productive and actually harms consumers.”

“Is Obamacare Constitutional?” by Dominick T. Armentano (Human Events, 7/30/10) Spanish Translation

“Can Obama Force You to Buy Health Insurance?” by Anthony Gregory (Christian Science Monitor, 9/14/09)

Antitrust and Monopoly: Anatomy of a Policy Failure, by Dominick T. Armentano

Reclaiming the American Revolution: The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and Their Legacy, by William J. Watkins Jr.


2) Consumers Would Suffer under the Renewable Electricity Standard

The U.S. Senate is considering forcing electric utilities to generate 15 percent of their power from wind and solar sources by 2021. Yet because wind and solar power are not economical—and would likely remain uneconomical even if fossil fuel prices were to rise significantly—the so-called Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) would result in higher costs for electricity users, according to Independent Institute Research Fellow S. Fred Singer.

“The consumer, meaning all of us, would pay for this extravaganza,” writes Singer, an atmospheric physicist. “It’s just a huge transfer of money—yet another regressive tax on consumers, with the electric utilities forced to become tax collectors.”

The RES has been sold as a means of creating “green” jobs, but the suggestion that it would promote productive employment is a distortion of the underlying economic reality, Singer further argues. “A study conducted in Spain, which has gone overboard on renewable energy, shows that each so-called green job displaces between two and three real jobs,” writes Singer. “The hypocrisy of the RES advocates is appalling. It’s okay for the taxpayer to subsidize low-carbon energy that doesn’t work (wind, solar) but not low-carbon energy that does work (nuclear).”

“The Renewable Electricity Standard Is a Hoax, a Fraud, and a Rip-Off,” by S. Fred Singer (American Thinker, 8/5/10) Spanish Translation

Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate, by S. Fred Singer


3) Vargas Llosa on the “Ground Zero Mosque”

Opponents of Park51 and Cordoba House—the Muslim-led interfaith cultural and community center proposed for a site two blocks from the location of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Manhattan—argue that allowing the project to be built so close to Ground Zero would hand a symbolic victory to al-Qaeda. In his latest op-ed, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa argues in favor of allowing the center to move forward.

“One should not judge the merits of something primarily on the basis of whether the wrong people also support it,” writes Vargas Llosa. If we were to do that, we would not undertake some very worthwhile endeavors. For example, suppose freedom-loving Spaniards had shied away from opposing the authoritarian regime of General Franco because the Soviets also opposed him. Would that have promoted freedom and justice? No.

Moreover, the premise of the opponents of Park51 and Cordoba House is wrong, according to Vargas Llosa. “Bin Laden and company hate any strand of Islam that stands for peaceful coexistence and liberal values—including the symbolism of Cordoba, a Spanish city fabled for its religious tolerance in the 10th and 11th centuries under Muslim rule.” Allowing the project to go ahead belies the Muslim militants’ claim that American freedoms are but a fig leaf for discrimination. “The decision to allow the center proves them wrong yet again,” concludes Vargas Llosa.

“The Cordoba House Symbol,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (8/11/10) Spanish Translation

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Lessons from the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa


4) What the U.S. Military Can Teach Its Foreign-Policy Leaders

General David Petraeus has been hailed for implementing a counterinsurgency strategy—first in Iraq and now in Afghanistan—that emphasizes winning the hearts and minds of local populations by protecting civilians and exercising military restraint—an approach the United States adopted during the Vietnam war after it was too late turn the tide.

In his latest op-ed, Independent Institute Senior Fellow Ivan Eland argues that the more restrained approach of counterinsurgency operations is appropriate not only in the theater of war, but also at the level of national foreign policy. In other words, to reduce the risk of terrorist attacks, U.S. foreign policy should strive to not alienate civilian populations.

The United States “should attempt to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world by ending meddling in places such as Yemen and Somalia and withdrawing forces rapidly from Iraq and Afghanistan,” writes Eland. “As a last resort, if military action is unavoidable, it should be done without massive firepower or intrusive and extended involvement or occupation on the ground.”

“COIN Thinking on a Larger Scale Might Work,” by Ivan Eland (8/11/10)

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland

Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, by Ivan Eland

Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty, by Ivan Eland


5) This Week in The Beacon

Here’s the latest from The Beacon, the blog of the Independent Institute.


  • Catalyst
  • Beyond Homeless